Battery-powered outdoor security cameras are the most flexible, as you can place them pretty much where you want them without having to drill any holes in your walls.
The downsides are that these models tend to use PIR motion sensors, so you may get more notifications and, if you point them somewhere busy, you can run the battery down quickly. Mains-powered security cameras tend to have activity zones to cut down how many notifications that you get and don’t need to be charged, but installation tends to be a little more complex.
Pretty much every outdoor camera that we’ve tested requires a subscription to a cloud storage service. These make a lot of sense, as you get secure online storage for your footage, so even if your camera is stolen, you can still get the footage.
Viewing angles are described in degrees, with higher numbers taking in a wider field of view. In other words, if you’ve got bigger viewing angles, then your camera will capture more. This is quite important outside, as a camera with a wide viewing angle will see more of what’s going on.
Typically speaking, look for a camera with 150-degree or wider field of view, although doorbells tend to be slightly narrower and more focusses to make it easier to talk to someone at your front door.
As cameras are placed outside, then they can more easily be stolen. There are cameras that have magnetic mounts that are relatively easy to knock out of alignment or to the floor.
However, there are ways around the problem. Careful positioning of a camera so that anyone fiddling with it will be spotted is a good idea, and you can often buy or upgrade to a more secure outdoor mount that makes theft harder.
Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant support is handy if you want to stream footage to your TV or screen-enabled smart speaker.
IFTTT can be useful, too, letting you control other devices when motion is detected, such as turning on a light automatically.
Nest cameras have Works With Nest automatic rules, so they can be turned on automatically when a smoke alarm goes off, for instance, or they can turn on your Hue lights automatically if suspicious activity is detected.
For the most part, outdoor security cameras should be left on recording all of the time. The exception is that if you have a camera in your back garden, you may want to use the app to disable it when you’re outside.
The higher the resolution, the more detailed the video, in general. That said, 1080p footage is generally good enough to find a frame in a video where it’s easy to spot a person’s facial details; go higher, if you want more detailed footage.
Some outdoor cameras have spotlights on them, which can be a useful way of advertising their presence to scare of thieves, and to improve the quality of the footage at night. All cameras have IR night vision, but you get a softer image when using this.